On February 19, Tesla tweeted that it produced its millionth 4680 battery at its California factory in January. In the eyes of those who are optimistic about Tesla, although the number is not large, this marks that the 4680 battery has officially entered the mass production stage. Tesla is expected to deliver the new Model Y equipped with the 4680 battery.
It is understood that each Model Y requires about 1,000 4680 batteries, and 1 million 4680 batteries are only enough to produce about 1,000 Model Ys. It can seem that the production of one million batteries is only the beginning of the industrial chain. To promote industrial transformation, procurement outside of self-production is essential. Currently, Tesla produces its own 4680 batteries at four Gigafactories in California, Texas, Nevada, and Berlin, Germany. At the same time, companies such as Panasonic also plan to start supplying Tesla in 2023. In terms of the domestic industrial chain, many leading companies such as CATL have also invested in the mass production of 4680 batteries, striving to accelerate the construction of 4680 battery production lines in an all-around way. So, does this mean that the total mass production of the 4680 battery is about to start? Does it represent the cooling down of the high prosperity of lithium iron phosphate batteries? How is the 4680 battery different from other batteries? When the fire started, whose cake was moved?
4680 battery mass production is about to start?
The mass production progress of the 4680 battery has always been in line with expectations. From a yield rate of 72%, that was difficult to see at first, 80% due to battery manufacturers’ ongoing research, development, and planning. Such as Panasonic, and then to about 90% today. The yield that meets the mass production requirements shows that Tesla and significant battery manufacturers attach great importance to the 4680 sizeable cylindrical battery.
However, judging from the mass production of 4680 batteries officially announced by Tesla this time, it is still unrealistic to fully mass-produce and fully install various main models of Tesla, and it will take some time.
According to Tesla’s official information, the pilot plant in California produced 1 million 4680 batteries in January, and 10 million 4680 batteries in one month were only a drop in the bucket compared to Tesla’s production and sales rate. The 4680 batteries in the case of reducing the number of battery cells in a single battery pack. Since the 4680 battery itself becomes more significant and the capacity of the internal active materials also becomes more extensive, it reduces the number of cells in a single battery pack. The previous-generation 1860 cylindrical battery requires 7200+ cells. The second-generation 2170 cylindrical battery has some Progress, only 4400+ cells are needed, and the current three-generation 4680 battery is an order of magnitude reduction. Only 950 cells are required, but even so, 1 million 4680 battery cells are only enough for 1050 Teslas. Compared with Tesla’s monthly production and sales of hundreds of thousands of vehicles, it is indeed difficult to achieve full coverage in a short period.
I am judging from the current level of Tesla’s 4680 battery barely meeting the minimum mass production standard of 90% yield and the production level of 1 million 4680 battery cells in one month. And Tesla’s goal of fully expanding production capacity in 2022 See, in a short period, Tesla may only do trial installation of some models and cover a small number of models. Tesla may gradually match it according to its different models and versions. The first models can use 4680 batteries, except that Tesla itself said that the first to be equipped with 4680 batteries would be the Tesla Model Y in the Texas factory. This is the high-end Model with relatively low production and sales volume Model S, Model X and R&D. Cybertruck, and large models such as the Semi, which require higher energy density.
What aspects of the 4680 battery have been optimized?
In 2020, at Tesla’s Battery Day event, Musk debuted the new 4680 battery. The 4680 battery, named after its size, is a cylindrical battery with a diameter of 46 mm and a height of 80 mm, which is 5.48 times the volume of the 21700 battery. According to the data released by Tesla, the cruising range of the 4680 battery increases by 16%, the power output increases by six times, and the energy increase by five times. The transformation and upgrading of this battery are reflected in four levels.
First, the battery has increased in size. This battery, named after the larger size, is about 40% larger in size than Tesla’s existing 21700 cells, which have a diameter of 21mm and a height of 70mm. Tesla claims that a diameter of 46mm is the best choice for combining high energy density with high power density for cylindrical batteries.
Second, the 4680 uses a silicon-carbon anode material. This material has a theoretically higher energy density than traditional graphite anodes. The mass-energy density of lithium batteries using silicon anode materials can be increased by more than 8%, and the physical energy density can be increased by more than 10%. Moreover, since the voltage of the graphite anode is very close to the deposition potential of lithium, the silicon-based anode material has better safety in comparison. Silicon materials have a wide range of sources and are low-cost. Ordinary people can even understand silicon raw materials like sand, a very environmentally friendly raw material.
Then there is the adoption of electrodeless ear technology, also known as full-ear technology, which is also a new patent-pending from Tesla. Current batteries commonly use a “jelly roll design,” a design in which the cathode, anode, and separator are rolled together and connected to the positive and negative terminals of the battery container through the cathode and anode lugs. However, the resistance of this design will increase with the increase of the cruising distance. And the existence of the tabs as an extra part increases the cost and manufacturing difficulty. The electrodeless ear technology is a new type of battery manufacturing method. Its core design concept is to directly connect the positive and negative current collectors to the cover plate/shell by removing the tab parts, thereby multiplying the current conduction area and shortening the current conduction. Distantly At the same time, the battery’s internal resistance is significantly reduced, the heat generation is reduced, the battery life is prolonged, and the peak power of charge and discharge is increased.
Not a smoke bomb, Tesla’s 4680 battery is here.
Finally, dry electrode technology sets a new standard for power batteries. Traditional batteries need to be placed in a toxic and expensive solution such as NMP before being dried and pressed into a thin film.
The dry electrode technology eliminates putting the key and the drying process. The active positive and negative particles are mixed with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) to make them fibrillated. Then the powder is directly rolled into a film, which is pressed on on aluminum or copper raw materials. This process is relatively simple, and the production speed is faster. It saves the solvent expenditure and the laminator cost caused by the traditional method. It solves the problem of capacity loss caused by the failure of the fusion of lithium and carbon in the solvent. They are increasing the battery energy density by about 5%.
Is lithium iron phosphate coming to an end?
The mass production of the 4680 battery is not surprising. As the primary type of power battery promoted by Tesla, not only Tesla’s power battery manufacturers are conducting research and capacity building, but almost all the world’s top power battery manufacturers. For example, CATL, Panasonic, LG New Energy, Yiwei Lithium Energy, etc., are all preparing for the arrival of 4680 batteries. Still, the mass production of 4680 batteries does not mean the end of lithium iron phosphate batteries.
First of all, Tesla repeatedly stated in 2021 that lithium iron phosphate batteries would be an essential supporting battery for Tesla’s models. Tesla has signed a contract with CATL, a leading power battery company. In terms of specific actions. The four-year large-scale order for the supply of lithium-ion power battery products is also a market rumored blade battery supply contract signed with BYD. This battery manufacturer ranks among the top in lithium iron phosphate batteries. The types of power batteries that Tesla needs are all Lithium iron phosphate batteries. In general, Tesla will carry out a dual-track operation – 4680 and lithium iron phosphate batteries. Tesla will use different batteries for different models and different versions of similar models, both 4680 battery and lithium iron phosphate battery. There is no conflict between them, and it will not have any impact on Tesla’s current domestic lithium iron phosphate battery suppliers.
Secondly, Tesla has become the world’s best-selling new energy vehicle company for four consecutive years, with sales of 936,000 units in 2021. Its Tesla Model 3 and Model Y have also become members of the global sales TOP3. , In 2022, due to the shortage of products, Tesla said that it would not launch new models but choose to fully expand production capacity, which means that breaking the million sales mark in 2022 is just the beginning. The annual sales volume will reach 1.5 million. Not impossible. However, if Tesla wants to expand its production capacity to meet sales expectations, it is impossible to achieve the current mass production efficiency of 4680 batteries. In other words, lithium iron phosphate batteries will still serve as the main force.
Finally, the 4680 battery itself only represents a battery size, not a unique technology of a ternary lithium battery. There is no breakthrough change in the material itself, just like BYD’s blade battery. So to some extent, It is not impossible to use the lithium iron phosphate cathode material as the cathode material of the 4680 sizeable cylindrical battery. But to achieve the preset high energy density of the 4680 battery, it is expected to use the ternary cathode material.
Therefore, the editor believes that 4680 batteries do not occupy the share of lithium iron phosphate batteries. The lithium iron phosphate battery will still be the leading choice for the standard version of Tesla’s models. In contrast, other long-range and high-performance versions of the Model may use ternary lithium batteries and gradually convert from 2170 cylindrical batteries to 4680 batteries.
Can 4680 Battery “fire up”?
In “46800 Battery, End the Fuel Era? “I also said that some people in China quickly followed up with 46800 batteries. This enterprise is Jiangqi Group (formerly Jianghuai Automobile). The corresponding supplier is BAK Battery. Moreover, according to the person in charge of Jianghuai technology, the 46800 battery will “end the era of oil vehicles.”
Why? The design of the electrodeless ear architecture of the Tesla 46800 battery directly contributes to improving manufacturability. A thermal management engineer of a new energy OEM said: “Compared to the improvement of performance, I think that canceling the design of the tabs is provocative for the industry. For battery thermal management, the reduction of heat also means that the battery fluid. may not need the design of the cooling system.”
Of course, it should point out that the energy density of the 4680 battery has not improved much. According to the calculation, it is roughly about 283Wh/kg (battery weight energy density = battery capacity × discharge platform voltage/weight, the basic unit is Wh/kg ). Considering other technical improvements, the total capacity of 4680 cells should reach 30Ah, and the energy density should reach 300Wh/kg.
The person in charge of Jianghuai Technology said, “After the launch of the 4680 battery, it will give a boost to all the cells in our industry. After this specification comes out, its volume, energy density, and process take this cell after the combination and reorganization. It can be used as a small car (A0 class and A00 class) with a range of 600km. And a standard A-class car (with 4680 battery) can do 800~1000km.”
It looks like Tesla’s 46800 battery would be a classic example of a “disruptive technology.” As a technological innovation, its specialized products are entirely new things that have never existed before. For traditional car companies, disruptive technologies often target an undetectable area initially, and they cannot meet the growth needs and strong manufacturing capabilities of conventional scales, which poses a challenge to the decision-making of traditional car companies.
Only Jiangqi Group Sihao New Energy is following up with 4680 batteries in China. Although it was reported in early September that Tesla began to look for 4680 battery partners in China, the target battery suppliers include CATL, LG Chem, and Yiwei Lithium Energy. However, Yiwei Lithium can deny it.
Denial does not mean not engaging in 4680 batteries. In early September, Israeli battery startup StoreDot announced that it had successfully produced the first 4680 battery, which can be fully charged in just 10 minutes, five minutes faster than Tesla. And according to the company’s press release, “(4680) battery samples are currently ramping up production on the production lines of the company’s manufacturing partner, Eve Lithium Energy, in China.”
It’s “physically honest.” According to domestic media 36Kr, the research and development of 4680 batteries in the Ningde era is accelerating, and the project name is “Golden Hoop Bar.” In addition, LG Chem has also successively developed batteries such as 4680 and 4690, hoping to enter the Tesla supply chain again. For Jiangqi Group, on February 1 this year, it signed a three-year joint product development strategic agreement with CBAK Energy Technology (previously renamed BAK Battery). According to the agreement, CBAK Energy Technology will provide customized solutions for power batteries and battery packs according to the technical requirements of JAC. The two parties will also jointly develop 4680 lithium batteries and battery packs. CBAK was established in August 2001 and is now called China-Belgium Energy Technology Joint Stock Company. Listed on NASDAQ in 2006, it became the first lithium battery company in China to be listed in the United States. After the contract is signed, if the 46800 battery is mass-produced in 2022, it should be applied to Sihao New Energy’s cars.
In any case, the 4680 battery has entered the mass production stage at speed exceeding the industry’s expectations, which will impact the original battery industry pattern. After breaking through the mileage anxiety, it will affect the design of fuel vehicles and electric vehicles. After all, domestic car companies mainly use soft-pack and square-shell lithium batteries. According to the trend of Tesla’s annual sales of 1 million vehicles, 4680 batteries may soon become the new favorite of major car companies like blade batteries.